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Matthew 19:13–15 features the wonderful account of Jesus’ welcoming children and blessing them. The disciples, thinking it beneath our Savior to receive the little boys and girls, attempt to turn the children away. Surely, they must have been thinking, Jesus was too busy and too important to waste His time with children. They believed He had more significant matters to deal with, people of greater influence and power to address. But Jesus did not agree with their assessment. In yet another instance of reframing the disciples’ notions of propriety, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (v. 14).

We dare not miss the significance of Jesus’ words. If children had no capacity to understand the things of God and the person and teachings of Jesus, it would make sense to keep them at arm’s length from the Savior until they’re old enough to really grasp Him. Jesus’ welcome of the children implies that our young ones are able to understand and believe the deep truths He proclaims. They may have a simpler understanding of these matters than adults, but that doesn’t make their understanding less true. In reality, Jesus is implicitly exhorting us not to underestimate our children and what they are capable of.

Anyone who has spent any time talking about the Bible, or God, or other spiritual matters with kids soon learns that they are actually profound little theologians. I am amazed at the questions my four children ask (they range in age from twelve to four) as well as their insights into divine truth. But it’s not just my own children. As I’ve had opportunity over the years to teach Sunday school or to sit in on communicants’ classes (classes for children as they prepare to take the Lord’s Supper), I see the children of other people ask the same kinds of remarkable questions and display a similar breadth of insight. To put it another way, young boys and girls often show more theological understanding than we give them credit for.

Sadly, however, we all too often underestimate children. Many churches send the children off to a childrens’ worship service during the sermon. The intentions behind this are good, for the practice is driven by a concern to make instruction age-appropriate. But it assumes that kids are incapable of understanding ordinary sermons. It underestimates the children and divides the corporate gathering.

To be fair, sometimes this happens because pastors do not take into account the presence of children in the congregation. That, too, underestimates children, for it misses their need of application of God’s Word to their own lives and assumes that they are incapable of taking what is said to adults and adapting it to their own circumstances.

Certainly there is a place for instruction tailored to younger children and classes specifically for them. Nevertheless, we must be careful never to underestimate our children. Jesus never did.

Mortifying the Root of Murder

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